The local United Development Company (UDC)announced on 8 November that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany's Ferrostaaland Japan's JGC Corporationfor the companies to jointly undertake the proposed aluminium smelter project at Ras Laffan. The three partners will now carry out an initial feasibility study, which will look at marketing, technology and feedstock issues. Doha has long had ambitions to establish an aluminium smelter, using feedstock from the North field gas reservoir. At least three proposals have been tabled since the mid-1980s, although not one has progressed beyond the planning stage.
The next milestone in the project's development will be for the sponsors to establish a price for the power supply. The companies have still to decide whether the smelter will have its own captive power station or be powered by electricity generated by a third party, such as the Ras Laffan independent water and power project (IWPP).
The smelter will have a capacity of up to 500,000 tonnes a year, depending on what technology is selected. It is expected that the technology supplier as well offtakers will join the three partners in the new project company.
Total project costs will be determined during the feasibility study. UDC says that, even without a captive power plant, costs will be more than $1,000 million. Onsite construction is not expected to begin for at least a year, while the smelter will take three years to build.
UDC was formed through an initial public offering in mid-1999 to invest in a broad range of areas, including the upstream and downstream energy sectors (Qatar, MEED Special Report, 27:8:99). In addition to the smelter project, the company is planning to take a 10 per cent stake in a new formaldehyde unit being built as part of the Qatar Fertiliser Company (Qafco)expansion project (MEED 27:7:01). It is also actively pursuing an interest in a linear alkyl benzene project, which is at an early stage of study by Qatar Petroleum.